Summer + picnics + alcohol + jazz + priceless works of art: This is the magic formula behind the National Gallery of Art’s Jazz in the Garden, which kicks off Friday. Here’s our guide to what’s arguably D.C.’s favorite non-Nats-game outdoor event.

The Setting

The 6.1-acre Sculpture Garden gets crowded quickly on summer Fridays. Avoid endless confused texting by picking a tall sculpture as your rendezvous point. An easy one to spot is Roxy Paine’s “Graft,” a stainless steel, 45-foot-tall tree-like structure.

“It has become a beacon in the garden,” says Molly Donovan, the museum’s associate curator of modern and contemporary art. “You’re drawn to it because it looks familiar, and then you realize it’s not a regular tree,” Donovan says.

The Booze

The all-star drink of the evening is the sangria. “During Jazz in the Garden we can sell as much as a thousand gallons of sangria a night,” says Kris Rohr, director of marketing and communication at Guest Services, the company in charge of concessions. What makes it so irresistible? “I hate to tell you, but it’s a secret recipe,” Rohr says.

Wine without fruit chunks is available by the glass ($7.50-$8.50) or bottle ($27-$30); Stella Artois can be had by the glass ($6.75) or pitcher ($18.50). You’re not allowed to bring your own alcohol into the garden, though some ne’er-do-wells report smuggling it in.

The Food

You can bring as much of your own food as you wish, so go nuts with the picnic baskets. The Pavilion Cafe sells sandwiches, salads and dips ($9.75-$11.50) for those lacking the wherewithal to prepare their own snacks.

The cafe also fires up an outdoor grill — the only time it does so all year, Rohr says — to serve grilled chicken kabobs ($10.50), smoked brisket sandwiches ($10) and pulled pork sandwiches ($9).

The Music

Jazz in the Garden might be more aptly named “Chatter in the Garden.” Unless you arrive early — some people get there as early as 4 p.m. — you probably won’t be able to see the performers. You can hear them from every spot in the garden, but you’ll have to listen over the steady hum of conversation.

If you want to see and hear Afro-funk group Elikeh on Friday, grab your spot at 4 p.m. Otherwise, you could always wait and check them out at Tropicalia on June 20.

The Downside

If it rains, everything’s canceled.

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue NW; Fri. through Aug. 29, 5-8:30 p.m., free; 202-737-4215, (Archives)


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